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Did Kimball ever make good pianos?
#1335708 12/28/09 07:36 PM
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Every Kimball I've tuned has been a hunk of junk. Bad tone, action falling apart, loose pins, pinblock cracking. Did Kimball ever make a decent piano?

My dad used to complain about Kimballs all the time and now I know why. I tuned one today and the pins were so loose I'm amazed I was able to actually get it in tune.


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Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos?
b3groover #1335759 12/28/09 08:52 PM
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I have never heard these critcisms connected with Kimball. They had beautiful cabinets and were bullit-proof. The only criticsms I experienced were mediocre touch response and tone. There are a couple of very recent threads raving about the Vienese Edition grands. I have worked on and personally sold hundreds of Kimball grands and uprights from the mid 1970s until they closed out production.


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Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos?
Marty Flinn #1335771 12/28/09 09:04 PM
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I've seen many good Viennese Kimball grands. I wouldn't be so quick to stereotype a piano brand. Even the best makers make a few duds, but the percentage of duds for a maker of fine pianos is very low compared to total production - therefore they are known as high end piano makers. Kimball was an average maker of grand pianos in relation to other producers. They were capable of making decent grand pianos, but only 50% were decent, thus the average rating. The Whitney Brand by Kimball earns a 20% decent rating from me, so they are usually well below average build quality, although you can find a good one occasionally. There are other brands I would classify as a "hunk of junk", where maybe 5% of their production was any good.

Last edited by Bob; 12/28/09 09:07 PM.



Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos?
Bob #1335823 12/28/09 10:34 PM
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Argh, Whitney is the worst. I remember one of the first client tunings my dad and I did together was at a small private school with a Whitney spinet. My dad let me set the temperament with guidance and tune most of the piano but I was at a loss with the bass. My dad took over and finished the tuning and I'll never forget what he said.

"There. All done. Beautiful eh? Still sounds like a bunch of coat hangers clanging together."

smile


Marty I'm sure there are some nice Kimballs around but I've yet to find one.


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Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos?
b3groover #1335845 12/28/09 10:52 PM
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Originally Posted by b3groover
Argh, Whitney is the worst.


Eh...one word: Winter.

And I ain't talkin' about the season...:(


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Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos?
JDelmore #1335857 12/28/09 11:12 PM
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I've tune zillions of them. One thing you can say: they are bulletproof. Leave 'em 20 years without tuning and those blocks are still tight, plywood board, laminated bridges still good. Jerk 'em up a half step or better and they will stay. With a bit of needling you can still eek out a passible tone.

Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos?
Sam Casey #1335964 12/29/09 01:42 AM
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I found a 9 foot (probably 8 1/2) Kimball grand, in original condition C-1920 (its on my wall, and I can't remember the specs as I write this! lol)

The owners tried to give it to me. I thought about it, and offered them $500. Plus it cost me about that again to move it to my shop. I'll rebuild it someday, and then I'll have a full sized. Its got tone that is stil unbelievable!!

My own experience with Kimball pianos has been mixed, like those above. But, I've generally found that the older the Kimball, the better I like it.

RPD


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Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos?
RPD #1336123 12/29/09 10:14 AM
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The Kimball grand line was a lot like some car makers, try to get one built on Tuesday thru Thursday. The build quality was a real crap shoot.
On a good day they could be a very nice, low cost piano. The Viennese grands could be regulated and voiced to be very decent instruments.

The under 42" pianos were not as bad as Winter (or Grand) but were entering the low end of the scale.

The Artist consoles were great furniture and decent home pianos.

The Habig family really did care about building a good product.

Last edited by wesquire; 12/29/09 10:16 AM.
Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos?
b3groover #1336143 12/29/09 10:56 AM
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I have not come across too many Kimball grand’s up this way but similar to the entire piano industry the older ones seem to be better built as compared to the newer ones.
I am quite sure that we could find good models and not-so-good models within the production history of all piano makers.

Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos?
Silverwood Pianos #1336171 12/29/09 11:55 AM
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Someone must have been selling Kimballs in my area in the 1920's because I have tuned many uprights from that time. They were quite good and are still very serviceable. I grew up w/a 1950's Kimball console which had a beautiful cabinet and was adequate as a living room piano. In my opinion, Kimballs from the 1970's on were very poor. My guess is that these are the pianos you're running into.

Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos?
w_scott_iv@yahoo #1336180 12/29/09 12:10 PM
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since we are talking about Kimball, I have a customer with a newer Kimball grand that I have been trying to locate the serial number. I have look everywhere but can't seem to find it . The piano is about 20-30 years old and about 5 1/2 ft.
Anyone know where the serial number is located?


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Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos?
wayne walker #1336191 12/29/09 12:22 PM
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As a young technician, I chromatically pitch raised a used Kimball Artist Console piano that had been neglected for many years. The plate snapped with a loud bang. The customer was floored.

I called Kimball and spoke with Roger Wiesensteiner the plant manager. He said it was not my fault. They picked up the piano, rebuilt and returned it to the customer for free.

Integrity unheard of these days.


Piano Sales, Piano Technician, "Tuning pianos for a song"
Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos?
Dave Lotek #1336249 12/29/09 01:42 PM
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The older Chicago ones were good quality, but time has taken its toll. The French Lickers were not so good.


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Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos?
Dan Casdorph #1336301 12/29/09 02:52 PM
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Serial number on a plate inside the rim next to the front lid hinge. Also, embossed into the back side of the keybed underneath the instrument.


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Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos?
Marty Flinn #1336828 12/30/09 07:29 AM
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I also think the cabinets on Kimball are very nice and it is what I usually mention to a customer when they ask about their piano.

The Whitney spinet and the Kimball spinet are scaled differently. I prefer the scaling on the Whitney. The scaling is better than most other spinets in my opinion.

I have only tuned one Kimball upright larger than a console. It was a newer one and was very, very nice. I should have measured it. It may have been a 48 incher.

All that being said… One of the reasons I chose not to continue tuning pianos as a career in the 70’s was because of all the Kimballs I tuned for the store that I was affiliated with. No matter how carefully I tuned, the sound reminded me of a tin box falling down a set of stairs. They do look nice, though, and I still tune them. I have made a note to tighten down on the pressure bar when returning on a few of them.


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Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos?
b3groover #1336905 12/30/09 10:40 AM
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Originally Posted by b3groover
Every Kimball I've tuned has been a hunk of junk. Bad tone, action falling apart, loose pins, pinblock cracking. Did Kimball ever make a decent piano?

My dad used to complain about Kimballs all the time and now I know why. I tuned one today and the pins were so loose I'm amazed I was able to actually get it in tune.


I haven't had time to read all of the responses but I would never characterize Kimball pianos in general with the above description. In fact, I would say that nearly any brand of piano could have these problems but Kimball pianos have fewer of them than many other brands I have serviced.

I will gladly tune and service any Kimball piano. If it has service requirements, including loose tuning pins (which I have actually found to be quite rare), I will perform those service requirements.

You have the choice as a piano technician to either hate what you do or love what you do. As soon as you decide that you hate most or all of the pianos you are asked to service, it is time for you to find another line of work. You will never be satisfied. When you decide to actually do something about the poor condition of some of the pianos you encounter, you will develop a feeling of satisfaction for having done so and you will earn a living.

Going into someone's home hating the piano you are asked to service is completely the wrong attitude to have.


Bill Bremmer RPT
Madison WI USA
www.billbremmer.com
Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos?
Bill Bremmer RPT #1336933 12/30/09 11:34 AM
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Originally Posted by Bill Bremmer RPT

You have the choice as a piano technician to either hate what you do or love what you do. As soon as you decide that you hate most or all of the pianos you are asked to service, it is time for you to find another line of work. You will never be satisfied. When you decide to actually do something about the poor condition of some of the pianos you encounter, you will develop a feeling of satisfaction for having done so and you will earn a living.

Going into someone's home hating the piano you are asked to service is completely the wrong attitude to have.


Well said, Bill. Without reference to the OP or other commentators here, I too have noticed that there are some techs who adopt an elitist attitude with pianos...i.e. everything is "junk" if its not Steinway etc.

We are honored guests in homes, where clients are hoping for a better sounding piano. Often, I'm called in after another (very highly qualified) tech has told a customer their piano is "junk". Sometimes the client is in tears when they call. Its happened here too many times to be coincidence...obviously some techs feel they are being ethical by telling it like it "is"...the tough love approach, as it were.

I'm with the folks who will try for improvement of pianos, providing there is at least a ray of hope. For this reason, I'm often found snapping replacement plastic elbows into place, or drilling bolts through delaminated pin blocks on uprights...customers know they have older, less optimal instruments, and they truly appreciate any artistry and assistance a good technician can bring to the discussion.

It is not without some great joy that I note that in recent years the PTG Journal has begun to feature technicians like Chuck Behm, who celebrates older historical/heirloom pianos...I truly believe the value of his work-saving these older pianos and encouraging others to take that approach as well-cannot be overstated!

We're honored guests in homes. Its not for us to discount the clients' pianos, any more than we would a dinner they had prepared for us. I love what I do, for the variety it provides. Personally, I'd go entirely out of my mind if all I did all day was tune Steinway grands!

I think Bill that your well stated sense of perspective on this comes from living in Madison...we're midwesterners too...and there are just lots of Kimballs, Cables, Whitneys, and even the occasional Conn piano. Like you, we've learned to celebrate our piano-lives for all the diversity provided!

RPD


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Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos?
RPD #1337366 12/30/09 08:55 PM
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Don't forget those Wurlitzer spinets as well, probably the most popular spinet ever made. Most had a very useable build quality and are still in service. Built in Dekalb Illinois in those days. I tune spinets by ear because I get better results that way - it's fun to get the best possible tuning out of a poor scale and the customer says "that piano never sounded so good".

Last edited by Bob; 12/30/09 09:00 PM.



Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos?
Bob #1337695 12/31/09 09:41 AM
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Not every customer can afford a top-of-the-line piano, so we works with what we finds.


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Re: Did Kimball ever make good pianos?
David Jenson #1338169 12/31/09 09:48 PM
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Does anyone know anything about the new Kimballs being built in Chicago? http://www.kimballpianousa.com/

Personally, I was a little surprised that someone picked up that particular name, though there is the historic Chicago connection...and those may have been the best years for the original company.

Has anyone seen/heard/played one?

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